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WHL  

Rockets move forward

The Kelowna Rockets have alleviated the logjam at the forward position.

The Rockets Tuesday dealt forward Colum McGauley to the Swift Current Broncos in exchange for an eighth-round bantam selection in 2021.

“We are deep at the forward position, and we have felt we needed to make room in our lineup for some of our younger talent,” said Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton.

"We thank Colum for his time in Kelowna and wish him the best in the future."

McGauley was a fourth-round selection of the Spokane Chiefs in 2015. He was traded to the Rockets in October of 2016 in a dealt that sent Tanner Wishnowski to the Chiefs.

In 47 games with the Rockets last season, McGauley had two goals and was a minus 2. He picked up 14 minutes in penalties.



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Rockets open on the road

The Kelowna Rockets will face some familiar foes when they open, and close the upcoming Western Hockey League season.

The 68-game regular season schedule released Tuesday, see Kelowna open up in Kamloops Sept. 21, before hosting the Blazers in their home opener the following night.

They close out with back-to-back games against the Vancouver Giants, culminating with the close of the season Saturday, March 16 at Prospera Place.

With the shorter schedule, the Rockets will face division rivals Vancouver and Prince George nine times each, Victoria eight times and Kamloops 10.

They face each of the US Division clubs four times and Eastern Conference teams once each.

The Rockets will host each of the Eastern Division teams, but a new wrinkle this year will see them face Central Division teams on the road only.

The new schedule includes 14 Saturday home dates, 11 on Wednesday, seven Friday nights with one each on Tuesday and Sunday.

For the first time since the Family Day holiday was instituted, the Rockets will not be at home that day. They will play on the road in Victoria.

Kelowna's longest homestand is three games in length. Their longest road swing is six games in mid-November.

The Rockets do have three tough stretches during the season.

They'll play nine games in 17 days in February, eight in 17 days in October and 11 in 21 days in November.



Rockets nab Finnish Lassi

Scouts in the hockey world believe the Kelowna Rockets got a steal when the grabbed Finnish defenceman Lassi Thomson in Thursday's CHL import draft.

The Rockets selected the slick-skating, offensive defenceman with the 53rd selection.

Thomson, from Tampere, Finland was part of that countries gold-medal winning team at the World Under-18 Championships. He had two assists in seven games.

He also had 12 goals and 27 points in 49 games in Finland's top junior league.

Thomson will be eligible for the NHL draft in 2019 where it's believed he could be a first round selection.

Some scouts took to Twitter suggesting Thomson may have slipped as far as he did because of the belief Finnish elite league teams will push hard for him to stay at home and play.

However, the Rockets says they don't foresee any issues acquiring Thomson's release from the Finnish Ice Hockey Federation.

Team president and GM Bruce Hamilton says Thomson addresses a problem the club would have been facing heading into next season.

"We needed to get a defenceman. All of the reports of Lassi are that he's a good, young player," said Hamilton.

"It may take him a while to adjust, but we needed to add another defenceman, and we feel he will be a good fit here."

If Thomson does decide to make the trek across the water, the Rockets will have a decision to make.

CHL teams are only allowed to carry two imports on their roster. Thomson would be the third, joining defenceman Libor Zabransky and forward Marek Skvrne.



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Ex Rocket gets GM gig

The Western Hockey League's Edmonton Oil Kings have tapped a former Kelowna Rocket as their next general manager.

Kirt Hill has been named president of hockey operations and GM of the Central Division club.

He previously served as an amateur scout for the NHL's Chicago Black Hawks.

Hill played a portion of three seasons with the Rockets from 2004 until he was dealt to Regina during the 2006-2007 season. He finished his career at the University of Waterloo, earning a degree in recreation and sports business in 2013.

He returned to the WHL, serving as manager of player development and recruitment and director of hockey operations at the league office in 2014.



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